Table 2 Subject Category:

  • Christianity
  • Buddhism
  • Hinduism
  • Islam
  • Judaism
  • Primitive Religion


    It is very clear from the Bible's own testimony and that of Jesus Christ and the Old Testament prophets that Scripture is to be regarded as the authoritative word of truth on all matters of basic doctrine. The following is a list of just the most significant verses that support the Word of God's claim to authority.

    The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).

    For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:18).

    All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-I 7).

    See also Exodus 24:12, 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 12:6, 19:7-8; 111:2-8; 93:5; 119; Proverbs 30:5; Daniel 10:21; Mark 12:24, 13:31; John 8:31--32; I Corinthians 2:13; I Peter 1:23-25; and 2 Peter 1:20-21.

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    Buddhism arose out of atheistic strands of Hinduism current in India in the sixth century B.C. Gautama, called the Buddha ("Enlightened One"), is said to have discovered that both the life of luxury and the life of extreme asceticism were of no use in gaining spiritual freedom; thus he propounded the "Middle Way." His teaching, however, was to undergo many transformations.

    Buddhism became a great missionary religion and eventually all but died in its native India. The Mahayana school, which developed a grandiose cosmology and a pantheon of semi-deities, is to be found in China, Korea, and Japan; the Therevada school, which is more austere, flourishes in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Burma, and southeast Asia. Zen is technically a Mahayana sect but has closer affinities with Therevada. All have their proponents in the West.

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    During the fourth century B.C. Aryans--the same people that developed Greek culture--conquered much of present-day India. Their pantheon of gods, similar to that of the Greeks, combined with indigenous Indian traditions of meditation to form a loose combination of beliefs and practices that came to be known as Hinduism. "Orthodox" Hindus can be either pious worshipers of a god or atheists, self-negating ascetics or men of the world.

    Hinduism had never been a missionary religion until the twentieth century and is largely limited to India and groups of emigrant Indians.

    Advaita Vedanta, which believes in complete identity between the inmost self and the impersonal, ultimate God, is the most common form of Hinduism in the West. Jainism probably represents the most ancient, pre-Aryan elements of Hinduism. The Sikh religion attempts to unite elements of Hinduism and Islam.

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    In the seventh century A.D. Muhammad--thought to be the last prophet in a line that includes Abraham, Moses, the biblical prophets, and Jesus--founded a strict, monotheistic religion in reaction to the polytheism and lawlessness of the existing Arab culture. Within a century Islam had conquered an area greater than the Roman Empire at its height. Today Islam is almost the sole religion of all Arab countries and has major communities in Africa as well.

    Muslims reject the title "Muhammadanism," for Muhammad is thought to be only a carrier of the truth and not divine in any way.

    The Koran, for the most part a series of short teachings, is intensely revered by Muslims as the final word of God, the culmination of what was only begun in the Bible. The word Islam refers to the peace that comes from surrender to God.

    Shi'ites believe that religious leaders should also be political rulers, whereas the majority of Muslims, the Sunnites, believe in a separation of the two realms. Sufis form the mystical branch of Islam, teaching an arduous path of self-denial culminating in union with God.

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    Never great by world standards, the small nation of Israel was repeatedly defeated and finally dispersed throughout the world. But the Jews are unique in that they maintained their identity in the midst of a large number of diverse cultures. Thus, although a religion closely tied to one ethnic group, Judaism has had a profound effect on beliefs and practices throughout the West and the Near East.

    There is a bewildering variety of Jewish groups and nationalities, many of whom are strange to each other. One loose way of dividing modern Judaism is into four groups: Orthodox Jews maintain strict adherence to traditional customs; Reform or Liberal Jews attempt to apply broadly Judaic notions to contemporary culture in a humanistic manner; Conservative Jews try to forge a middle way between the previous two, hoping to maintain strong Jewish identity; and Hasidic Jews follow a mystical path, although many Hasids are little other than the right wing of Orthodoxy.

    Jews hold a large number of writings besides the Old Testamant as authoritative.

    The Holocaust, in which over six million Jews were killed under Nazism and other forms of anti-Semitism, has become a major theme of Judaic thought in recent years.

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    Primitive religion is the beliefs and practices of people who lack writing and have a simple, material culture. Apparently it has existed since the beginnings of mankind.

    It is the religion of man without divine guidance, trying to make his peace with the terrifying and mysterious powers of nature. It can be said that primitive man lays bare the basic character of all men because he is stripped of the material benefits that often mask our need for God.

    Probably most of the human race through the ages has adhered to primitive religion. It is still widely practiced today in its pure form among preliterate peoples; in addition, many members of major religions (including Christianity) partake of primitive thought and practice to varying degrees.

    In the West there is now a great interest in primitive religion. Many think that modern secular man needs to recover primitive man's participation in the cycles of nature as well as his sense of the sacred.

    Because primitive religion has developed over every continent among peoples who have no contact with each other, it is amazing that many basic similarities exist among primitive religions.

    Taken from: The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error 2. Compiled by Steven Cory. Copyright 1986, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Moody Press. Used by permission.

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